5 out of 5
After an issue which showed the limitations of the ICM format / style, we get an issue that shows how much potential there still is within it, rendering a “familiar” tale – an unwanted teen pregnancy – into something weird and unnerving and oddly hopeful in the convention-breaking presentation that writer W. Maxwell Prince and artist Martin Morazzo have employed, generally successfully, throughout the series.
Taking a date-by-date-per-page approach, ticking off the days ’til Christmas with young Julie’s advent calendar and the symbolic gifts she finds within, Prince and team step through fragmented conversations – with parents, doctors, therapists – and experiences, like a dream, or the fateful pregnancy test. Easter Egg ICM totems pop up throughout, strengthening the issue’s ties to the series in a way that’s incredibly satisfying, and then twisting our, by now, expectations of the series’ nightmarish setups by turning in to something that’s not exactly joyful, but not exactly the kind of Twilight Zone hijinx we might predict. Prince employs some interesting symbolism (as usual) and delivers some final zingers via a Pastor’s Xmas-eve speech that exist in this otherworldly realm of brilliance, far afield of the trying-too-hard poignancy that sometimes pops up in the book.